What Is the Church?
The words church and churches occur in the New Testament 112 times, translated from the Greek word ekklesia, which would have been more correctly rendered “congregation.” Thus we would have read, “the congregation of God,” “the congregation of the firstborn,” (Hebrews 12:23) etc., denoting its divine Founder and Owner. And, “the congregation that was at Antioch,” (Acts 13:1) “the congregation of God which is at Corinth,” (1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1) “the congregations of Asia,” (1 Corinthians 16:19) “the congregations of Galatia,” (1 Corinthians 16:1; Galatians 1:2) etc., denoting the different geographical locations of the congregations of God. But whether we use the word church, as in common use, or congregation, the more correct appellation, we should only attach such meaning to it as agrees with the Word of God. To use a Bible word out of its biblical meaning is perverting the Bible.
What then is the Bible definition of the church?
Answer: “And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.” (Ephesians 1:22-23) “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” (Colossians 1:18) “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church.” (Colossians 1:24)
The church is the body of Christ. And being the body of Christ, it necessarily includes all His members. Therefore to call an earthly building the church is ridiculous, and to call an organized division the church is subverting the truth. No sect contains all the body of Christ, therefore, no sect is the church of God. Then as honest men, who expect to be judged by the Word of God, let us never call anything the church but the body of Christ; that is, all the saved, either universally, or in any given locality.